tv Woodrow Wilson and World War I CSPAN November 11, 2016 10:35am-11:16am EST
a 1 million 200,000. >> we ontoured to learn about immigrant experience. in 1909 woodrow wilson nominated boston lawyer louis brandeis to the supreme court, the first jew to sit on the supreme court. in commemoration of his nomination, author of louis brandeis life talks about the justice's life, career and legacy. >> what brandeis is trying to do limit to a specific role one defined by constitutional network in which all government operates and which limits or should limit any one branch from exercising power beyond it's province. >> for our entire schedule go to c-span.org.
>> each week american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. we visited woodrow wilson's house in washington, d.c., where the 28th president retired in 1921 after leading the nation through world war i and its diplomatic aftermath. he died here three years later. executive director robert enholm leads us through as wilson experienced it. united states entered april 6th 1917 as ally of britain, france, russia. 2 million american soldiers saw combat in france. >> i'm robert enholm, executive director of this president woodrow wilson house, site of national historic preservation here in washington, d.c. this home is the home to president and mrs. wilson the day they left white house. the home it's self built in 1916 and willsons acquired it in
december 1920 knowing they would leave the white house and decided to remain in washington, d.c. this home is a time capsule. it basically takes us back about 100 years ago and allows us to see the way the world was then. we sometimes have the illusion that people in history were very much like us, only they wore dowdy clothes or something. but actually the wilsons lived in an era when americans thought differently about themselves, about their role in the world, when society was very different. the artifacts in this house open a door into that world. i'd like to help us do that today by looking at a couple of the artifacts in this home that tell the story of america's involvement with world war i. here we now almost 100 years from the date when the united states entered the war in 1917. i observe often that history is studied in eras and epics, but it's lived in hours and days.
this is very true with the wilsons and world war i. we often associate the sinking of the lusitania with the united states entry into the war. they are certainly linked but lusitania sunk in may 1915 and we didn't enter the war um almost two years later in 1917. president wilson had to get up every day in those two years and deal with the fact we were either going to be in the war or not be in the war and all the reactions of people, his constituents, other nations, of the political figures he dealt with. make felt we should enter the war and some felt we should never enter the war. wilson had to navigate that period of time and those decisions as our president. i think it's fair to say woodrow wilson is the most consequential president from the time of abraham lincoln until the time
of franklin roosevelt. i say that because he was president during this remarkable event in world history. a point in world history and american history, not only dealing with world war i but the rise of the united states as a force in the world. by 1900, the largest economy in the world. the consequences of that weren't fully appreciated until the end of world war i when america's role as military power and diplomatic hour understood and acknowledged. woodrow wilson, president during the entire time, brought the change in america's role to the fore. wilson was a remarkable person to execute this activity, execute this change. he was a deeply religious person. all of us abhor war, but wilson as a religious man felt we had a duty to do better than to collapse into war every generation. he was a political scientist. really one of the founders of
that discipline of thought. one of the first presidents of american political science association, so he thought we could do better. he believed we could govern our selves better as a world. the combination of those two firmly held principles in his mind and heart led him to conclude as world war i progressed that there ought to be a better solution that would result not only this war but the wars of the future and even prevent wars in the future. from that came his idea of a league of nations to which he devoted not only his political career but arguably his life and place in history. so the artifacts we have in this house can tell us the story of woodrow wilson's involvement with world war i. >> if i had to pick one artifact it would be this. i tell people it looks like a brass vase but recognize it's an
artillery shell casing. this was the casing from the first shot fired by american troops in world war i in europe. there are a couple of things about this. it was fired in october of 1917. general pershing, who was the commander of the american expeditionary force in europe had the thought he should save this and send it as a memento of america's involvement in the war. it's interesting we declared war in april yet the first shot was fired in october. it took us six months to go from the idea of engaging in world war i to actually being on the ground and engaging with the enemy. but most remarkable of this, about this, is that not only is this an artillery shell casing from the first shot fired by american troops in europe and world war i, it's the first shot fired by american troops in europe ever. in my lifetime america has always had an army in europe. but in woodrow wilson's lifetime
the exact opposite is true. we've never had an army in europe. at the beginning of world war i, united states was tied for the 13th largest military in the world, tied with serbia and greece. by the end of world war i, we had 4 million men in uniform, having gone from 200,000 to 4 million and fully half of them, 2 million service personnel were in europe at the end of world war i. so just the logistics of that are astounding. realize that when world war i erupted, the combatants weren't even concerned about america's role. yet today we think of america as an indispensable power in world politics. at the beginning of world war i, we really were an afterthought and it was woodrow wilson who achieved that transition. i've heard presidents of both political parties say in my lifetime that the united states doesn't go to war basically to
build an empire or acquire territory, we go to war for principle, for right. it was really woodrow wilson who was the first american president to enunciate that proposition. i need only guide you back 20 years earlier to the beginnings of the spanish american war, which was avowedly about taking over the colonies of a dwindling spanish empire. wilson thought going to war was about securing an enduring peace. this artillery shell casing is here on the mantel in his bedroom where he had it. fair to say not a trophy but more a reminder to him of the work, as yet, umbrella done. the creation of the league of nations had occurred. he was there and even was awarded nobel peace prize for establishing league of nations. as americans, we should remember our country never joined league of nations.
declined to ratify. wilson went on a tour across the country hoping to appeal to the american public to override the will of senators. that never happened. league of nations failed in a series of votes in 1919 and early 1920. so the united states never joined. interestingly late in life wilson had a state of grace about this. he told one of his daughters who reported in her memoirs, i realize great ideas don't rely on their advocates. they have a logic of their own, a power of their own. it would be only 25 years later when the u.n. was founded and there was, i think it's fair to say, no nation in the world more intent on founding united nations at the end of world war ii than the united states. in 1945 when the u.n. charter was signed in san francisco, in a way that's a conclusion of a conversation that woodrow wilson had begun in american politics
in 1918. another artifact remarkable, there are so many, people come to the house to see all we have. relating to world war i is this sculpture. this was a gift to woodrow wilson from a young artist. he was a philippine artst in his 20s, who was studying in the united states and had a day job, as most of my artists friends had when they were young as a waiter. one of his patrons was isn't to the first lady, to edith wilson. the artist had done this as an art project as a grad student and told the woman he knew who was associated with the white house that he had done this in 1919 inspired by president wilson's efforts to bring peace to the world. it has the word pax inscribed here, which means peace in spanish. he was invited to meet president
wilson. i've heard of him coming to the white house with the statue wrapped in cloth. one didn't encounter the secret service until you rang the doorbell. he was announced, went into the oval office to meet president wilson and was presented and warmly received. we know when he lived in the in this house he had the sculpture here or in his library. the story is amazing but doesn't end there. he introduced the artist to an arts patron, also supporter of president wilson. he helped support him getting an education in rome and eventually a phd there and then going back to the philippines where he became one of the great artists in the history of the philippines. so it's interesting to me that our 28th president had a role in spurring the career of a philippine artist who went on to live until 1970s, 1980s and had
an impact in his own country. that's the impact we have here. still, it's an amazing work, just the draping of the gown on the woman. the figure of the woman and the child looking off spot middle distance, presumably looking for peace, standing on rock under which you can see chains and crown and world war i helmet. symbolism but also a favorite piece of president wilson's. president wilson passed away in this house, in this room in 1924. his widow edith wilson lived here until remarkably 1961, 37 years after he passed. she left this house to the national trust for historic preservation to be a memorial to president wilson. over his bed, we can see a work of art. it's a textile painted on wood frame. it was presented to wilson during world war i by an italian artist when wilson was visiting
new york city. it was a favorite piece of wilson's and he had it hanging over his bed in the white house and then over his bed here at the f street house. on the bed here is also an interesting artifact. it's a pillow, which the pillow case has been woven into the likeness of president wilson, which was a little unusual. but the story explains it. during world war i, the united states undertook to send food aid to belgium, which was partially occupied by germany during the war. that aid, part of it came in the substance of flour in sacks, cotton sacks. the belgians who have century's old tradition of weaving lace didn't have fine threads to weave during the war. always ingenuous, they would take flour sacks and undo them and reweave them into designs. this was a gift to president wilson and a likeness of wilson
along with work around the edge to decorate. it's an amazing example of what people will do in war when they are limited in the materials that are available to them and yet they have a skill and they want to exercise that skill. this the drawing room in the house. this home tells so many stories. every room has stories to tell. one of the important stories in this room is the high regard with which the american president was held by the leaders of the world, certainly by the end of world war i. so there are many gifts of state in this room which are an acknowledgement of wilson's important role in bringing about the end of world war i and securing the peace and versailles treaty and establishing league of nations. today we probably rightly think so much more of world war ii
than world war i. world war ii is closer to us in time. my own father was in the navy in world war ii. it also was a more disastrous war, just on casualties, let's say, about 18 million people died in world war i. about 60 million, 65 million people died in world war ii. but for the contemporaries of world war i, there had never been a cataclysm on the scale that they were enduring. it's hard for us, i think, today to put ourselves back in the minds and passions of people in the early 20th century and realize whag a tragedy world war i was to them and how hopeless things seemed in the middle of that war from november of 1917 to november of 1918. so into that, president wilson brought the united states. and not only did american troops lead to a decisive victory for the parties, the allies at the end of the war, but his ee
newsation, we may remember what his 14 points said, among other things, was that this war could be terminated, could be ended on principal. it didn't have to be a fight to the death. this was an innovation coming from an important leader of an important country. additionally, it can be seen as a response to the revolution in russia which had occurred two or three months early in 1917. the 14 points announced in january of 1918. so wilson was basically saying, we can maintain the western europe and the world that we all know. we can still have the forms of government that we're comfortable with and we can end this war without a fight to the death. and it would take another better part of a year, another nine or ten months, until the german empire accepted wilson's 14 points as the basis for peace
and the date of that acceptance was known as armastice day. today it's called veterans day. we still honor it as a national holiday even 100 years later. so in that time, wilson was the world leader who was bringing the hope for peace to the world. when he went to europe to negotiate the versailles treaty at the end of world war one, he ended up staying for six months. some will say to me, well, it was hard to travel in those days. it wasn't thatter hard. it took him ten days in an american war ship to go across the atlantic. but there was nothing more important in that day than ending the war. while he was there, he had time to visit four countries. paris, france, so he was in france, he visited italy, belgium and great britain. while in italy, he went there and met with the pope, with pope benedict xiv.
it's such a fine mosaic that if you think from a distance it's an oil painting. school of art will realize it's a detill from a painting by a renaissance italian painter. this was a work, a gift of the pope presented to president with it wilson as a way to wish him well in bringing peace to the world at the paris peace conference. here is another amazingly beautiful work of art a. this is a painting called les perance. one of the consequences of world war i was that the ottoman empire, which had gfoverned wha we think of today as the middle east asia, turkey and that region, the ottoman empire collapsed and in that
transition, the armenian people suffered grievously. who was our president? well, it was woodrow wilson. in that time, he responded to that crisis by sending food aid to armenia. it's one of the first examples of humanitarian relief. the armenian peel are grateful. and there's a group of armenian people raising money for armenian charities were here in 1917 just after we declared war and presented this painting to president wilson. the artist's wife who is among the women, it depicts their niece who is wearing traditional armenian costume and holding the armenian national flower which symbolizes hope and thus the title of the work "in hope" in french. it shows the role of america in
bringing human tear yab relief and being a player, if you will, on the humanitarian stage. these, i'll point out these gold, hand painted plates are three of 15 plates that were a gift to president wilson from the kick and queen of belgium who wilson visited when he was in europe and they reciprocated by coming to the united states in the fall of 1919. this was the first trip to america by reigning monarchs to america. because of travel and because of the role of america in the world, british kings and queens, french kings and queens had not visited the united states. but the belgium king came to the united states and presented president wilson with 15 plates in a lackered, well vet lined box with a shelf for each plate.
wilson had, about a month before, suffered the stroke that devastated his health and presidency. but one could hardly say to european monarchs, it's not a convenient time to come. so wilson had an audience with him. he was actually in bed recuperating from the stroke. edith wilson, the first lady, took the king and queen on a tour of the white house. before they left, they returned to wilson's bed and found him with a magnifying glass looking at the plates and wilson quickly realized each building depicted a building that had been destroyed in world war i. so these plates really were a reflection of the damage that had been done in europe and a thank you to wilson for bringing the war to a conclusion and for re-establishing the normal society that would lead to the rebuilding of europe following world war i. when president wilson went to paris for the paris peace conference, he became the first
american president to go to europe while in office. while he was in europe, he went to great britain and was actually at a reception hosted by the king and queen of england at buckingham palace. wilson then became, if you think about it for a molt, the first american approximated to meet the king and queen. these are the photographs which were presented to wilson. they're in silver frames with their initialses on them. these are their officials port rals and both are autographed by the american family. these are queen elizabeth's grandparents. and i think if you look closely, she bears quite a resemblance to her grandmother, queen mary. here outside the library is a statue that deserves note. woodrow and edith wilson are both supporters of the american red cross. this is one way the united
states was involved in world war i even before we declared war and became involved militarily. the red cross did great work in worlder war one and was supported by many americans, including prominently the president and first lady. this sculpture was based on a popular poster of the time. it's called the greatest mother in the world and depicts a red cross nurse kneeling and cradling in her arms what you might initially think is a baby, but actually it's a small soldier which has been grievously wounded. it's an an maizingly empathetic work. i can imagine why the american public was so taken by this work, the idea of the woman must have spoken to the impulse of
americans to be involved on, to do right, to do well. and so the wilsons, this was presented to president wilson, we think, by the artist sometime during world war i. here in woodrow wilson's library, we have a whole range of artifacts that tell the story. this cabinet is full of gifts and mementos of wilson's president today. but maybe the most amazing and the one that relates most clearly to world war i is this pin and pin stand. the pin is the pen that woodrow wilson used to sign the check laration of war in april 1917. the way this would have worked, wilson earlier that week had given a speech before a joint session of congress. the house voted, the senate vote and had they brought him the declaration of war three or four
days later. and he and his wife, edith, were having lunch and it's like, where is the pen? edith said, oh, here, use mine. it's a pearl handle ed pen. it has a whole story of its own. if you look closely, it's a walrus tusk that's been carved in the shape of a walrus with inlaid gold and it was a gift from the ip ewit tribes in alaska. this is before alaska was a state, when it was a territory of the united states. over here is a statue that was a gift to the first lady, edith wilson from the city of rome. i mentioned earlier president wilson was the first american president to go to europe while in office. and interestingly, edith wilson
was the first first lady to go to europe, if you want to answer it that way. she had to answer questions about how does a first lady conduct herself? how does she dress? so when the wilsons visited italy, president wilson was in rome and was given onary citizenship by the city of rome, but edith was given this statue, which for those who are aware of the history of italy would know this is the statue of romulus and remus, and on the are the initials that stand for the senator and people of rome. it's a very touching gift and the fits into the theme of that era. edith's accompanying president wilson raised questions in people's minds of what role were
women to have in our society. it would be about that same time, during the wilson administration that the 19th amendment was finally confirmed and that women received the federal constitutional right to vote in the united states. and in her own way, he'd yilth was forging a path for women that continues to this day of the first lady accompanying the president on state visits and having a formal role. this is a radio microphone from the 1920s. it was from this room that president wilson made the first nationwide radio broadcast on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of armistice day, november 11th, 1923. and it was a microphone like this that wilson used to give a four-minute speech on this occasion. he was quite anxious about it, spent the day fretting and napping off and on. no one had ever spoken on radio like this before. at that point, having endured a
stroke and still somewhat recovering, he was somewhat feebled. a person who still smoke as much as wilson still felt some anxiety about going on radio. so he gave him speech at about 8:00 this evening. it was very well received, so we have this microphone here to commemorate that great event. the united states never did join the league of nations. and wilson at this time appealed to americans recking both that it was consistent with the principals of our nation's founding and also consistent with the sacrifices made by our troops in world war i that we joined the league of nations. wilson was to pass away about three months later in this house. so it was really his last public address. and so, really, to his last days, wilson was appealing to
america to really conclude world war i by joining the league of nations, a final step that we never took. we're now on the first floor in what president wilson called the dugout. he was a big fan of baseball which became popular in america when he was a teenager. this was the room where his secretary would do correspondence and whatnot. but many of the world war i related artifact that's we have here is of this and people often ask what is that. >> a funny way, it is. it's wool. but before it's been woven into clothing. the story here is that as the united states got more and more involved in world war i, the white house decided they ought to on free the workmen who were otherwise doing mowing and landscaping, free them to support the war effort. . so the wilsons got a flock of six or eight sheep and by the
end of war became 12 speep or more. but they would munch on the grass and every spring the wool would be shorn. the wilsons would then divide it into 50 states. then these would be auctioned to raise money for the american red roz. another artifact in this room is this platter. it's a attitudor platter. let me put on my gloves here so i can handle it without staining it. this was a gift to president wilson from the people of belgium. as you can see, it's in horrible condition. that's not because we neglect the platter. it's because it was actually
pulled from the rubble of a burned building in belgium. this was presented to wilson at the end of the negotiations of the paris peace conference, the versailles treaty. in a way, i think this artifact is so pointant and it tells the story of the beginning of the war and also the end of the war. so i'd like to read what is inscribed on it here. it says to the imminent president of usa, woodrow wilson. and i'm going to read exactly as it is. i think the person who wrote this probably spoke french as their first language and reasonable not english. it says in remembrance of his in gel yumm, june 1919. this dish has not drawn out of the ruins of hotel dela renaissance grand plus 30 tremond bulge yumm entirely
destroyed by the fire which has been systemly inflamed in the town by the german soldiers on 4-5 september 1914. so this is an artifact of the german invasion of bulge yumm that really started world war i. and students of history will remember germany's plan was to sweep through the lowlands of belgium, take paris before anyone could respond and wheel and turn to russia and defeat them. that plan, of course, didn't work because in large part bulge yumm resisted the german invasion. so this fire, september 4th and 5th, was set about a month after germany invaded. i don't remember detail, but they had the german army going through bulge yumm in about a week, about a month. and so the hostility of that time, the violation of the knew ralty of belgium, these were
intense issues of woodrow wilson's time. i think in a way they were presenting this plate to him to demonstrate the passions that were felt during that time, the intensity of the negotiations that you had conducted in versailles. there were 16 mring rant or combatant nations in this world conference. nations including india, japan, who were also involved in the hostilities during that war. they had lost among them 18 million people. think how cruciating these negotiations must have been compared to the international negotiations that we have today over things like climate change or trade treaties. and wilson brought all of those parties together to sign the versailles treaty, but to establish the league of nations that he thought was so important
to enduring and maintaining peace. and as someone who thought he knew as a political scientist knew what ought to be done, he brought the treaty back to the united states and there his political opponents weren't of the same view as he. they have a legitimate view. we do debate today the role of america in the world. but wilson, 100 years ago, saw beyond the verizon of history and believed that the world would need something like the united nations and he founded it in 1919. while the u.n. doesn't work perfectly today, i think it's an amazing legacy of our 28th president to have seen so clearly what the world would need to minimize the risk of war in the future. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs anytime by visiting our website,
c-span.org/history. this is a film of president woodrow wilson acknowledgi a ac crowd outside his washington, d.c. home on the second anniversary of the end of world war i. on november 10th of 1923, the former president delivered a live radio address from inside his home marking armistice day, now known as veterans day. coming up next, an audio recording of president wilson's address, the earliest known recording. the ailing former president who speaks very slowly in the recording died a few months later in february of 1924. pictured here is woed row wilson's coffin being carried can out of his home.
cable or satellite provider. up next on american history tv, a panel of four veterans discuss their lives in the u.s. military and combat experiences. participants include the those from the battle of the bulge, and a fighter pilot with tuskegee air men. this event took place in arlington, virginia, and was part of a conference of the group friends of the world war ii memorial. it's about an hour and a half. >> ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for this panel discussion this morning as we get ready to talk to some of our most treasured american heros with, our veterans of world war ii. and we thank them for joining us this morning. my name is mike hydeck. i'm honored to be here with friends of the world war ii memorial. and the foundation. i'm the morning anchor at